Anyone an Information Architect

There’s been much chatter over the past day about Slack’s corporate identity redesign. Among all the commentary and reporting, this post at The Verge stood out for me. There’s two reasons for this. The first is this sentence:

The company is mounting a new marketing campaign describing the app as “where work happens.”

I think I’ve seen Slack market itself as a digital place where work happens before. However, this seems like confirmation that they’re going to push in this direction in a big way. I’m glad, because it acknowledges the fact that Slack is more than a tool, product, or service; it’s an environment. (I see this marketing direction as validation of Living in Information’s thesis.)

The second aspect of the post that stood out for me is this observation by its author, Casey Newton:

I’ve been feeling down on Slack ever since my colleagues at The Verge, which runs on Slack, created a channel called verge-internet for discussing the internet. We already had a channel to discuss tech (verge-tech), and a channel for longer tech discussions (verge-tech-discuss), and a channel for discussing culture (verge-culture). Wasn’t our whole website about the internet? Why did our internet website need an internet discussion forum separate from the many other forums in which we discuss the internet?

Many of us who’ve used a greenfield Slack account to coordinate activities with a group larger than a couple of people have experienced this. The environment’s design makes it easy to spin up new channels. Without an agreed-upon ontology, the result is duplication and confusion. Eventually, someone in the team either self-selects or is assigned the role of Slack channel curator. Not quite a bottom-up structuring of the environment; rather, a bottom-up nomination for the top-down role.

When work — along with other important social interactions — happens in information environments, information architecture stops being the purview of a select few. These days, anyone can be called on to be an information architect.

Slack’s new logo trades a hashtag for a pinwheel